Three men convicted of murdering Ahmaud Arbery

A US jury has found three white men guilty of murdering Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old black man who was shot while jogging in Georgia last year in an incident that fuelled racial justice protests across the US.

Father and son Gregory and Travis McMichael, as well as their neighbour William “Roddie” Bryan, were convicted of murder and other charges on Wednesday. The case gained widespread media attention last year after a video of the shooting circulated online, sparking outrage.

The verdict comes days after the acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse, a white teenager who killed two men during civil unrest in Wisconsin lasty year following the shooting of another black man, Jacob Blake.

The incidents expose the deep fissures in a country wrestling with tense debates over race and justice more than a year after George Floyd’s killing. In an indictment published in April, the US justice department alleged that the McMichaels and Bryan had intimidated Arbery because of his “race and colour”.

The three men faced charges including false imprisonment, malice murder, aggravated assault and felony murder, which carry a minimum penalty of life in prison.

The men pleaded not guilty on all counts. Travis McMichael was found guilty on all counts, including a single count of malice murder and four counts of felony murder. His father Gregory was found guilty on four counts of felony murder but acquitted of the malice murder charge. Bryan was convicted of three counts of felony murder, but acquitted on the malice murder charge and another felony murder charge.

The McMichaels had argued they were conducting a citizen’s arrest after suspecting that Arbery had robbed a home in their coastal Georgia neighbourhood, while Travis McMichael said he shot Arbery in self-defence.

Prosecutors countered that Arbery was unarmed, and that the legal criteria for a citizen’s arrest had not been met. They also noted that the murder took place after the three men chased Arbery with pick-up trucks and guns.

President Joe Biden in a statement said: “Ahmaud Arbery’s killing — witnessed by the world on video — is a devastating reminder of how far we have to go in the fight for racial justice in this country . . . Nothing can bring Mr Arbery back to his family and to his community, but the verdict ensures that those who committed this horrible crime will be punished.”

Federal authorities have separately charged the three men with hate crimes and attempted kidnapping in connection with Arbery’s killing, which took place in February last year.

Arbery’s death, along with the killings of Floyd and Breonna Taylor, sparked widespread protests in the US last year and heightened scrutiny over law enforcement.

The case unfolded in parallel with Rittenhouse’s trial, which sharply divided public opinion. The 18-year-old drove to Kenosha, a city on Lake Michigan, from the neighbouring state of Illinois after a police officer shot Jacob Blake, leaving him paralysed and sparking civil unrest. Rusten Sheskey, the officer who shot Blake, was not charged with a crime.

Rittenhouse testified during his trial that he was there to protect property and offer first aid, saying he carried an assault-style rifle to protect himself. He shot three men, killing two and wounding a third amid confrontations with a crowd.

Republican lawmakers and conservative commentators welcomed the 18-year-old’s acquittal, deeming the outcome a vindication of Americans’ second amendment rights under the US constitution, which allow people to “keep and bear arms”. The judge in the Rittenhouse case dismissed a firearms charge shortly before the trial ended.


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